On Top Of The World

Trip Start Mar 28, 2013
Trip End Jul 31, 2013

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Where I stayed
Davis Mountains State Park and Balmorhea State Park

Flag of United States  , Texas
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When we looked at a map of Texas we had a really hard time figuring out where we wanted to go.  The state is so big and we knew we couldn't see all of it.  We weren't sure how southwest we wanted to go but had read enough about McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis to know we wanted to go there.

As we drove along the highway we saw lots of vultures circling overhead and more and more oil fields being drilled.  For a large part of the drive we felt like we were in the movie "Cars" with the dark beige and red flat top mountains and curving roads with nothing else to be seen for miles.  It was a beautiful drive and we barely saw any other cars.  The straighter sections of the highway had a speed limit of 80 mph (130 km/h) and it felt like we were driving into the "wild west".  

We stayed at Davis Mountains State Park completely surrounded by the amazing mountains.  When we checked in, the campground map warned us to not leave young children outside on their own and beware of the mountain lions, bears, and javelinas.  I asked the park ranger about this and she said not to worry they usually only have a mountain lion walk through the campground every 3 months or so!  We kept our fingers crossed that we would miss his tri-monthly visit!  Javelinas (like warthogs) were sighted daily and she warned us to not leave any food out as they can be aggressive.  Bears hadn't been seen here for 3 years.  The only animals we ended up seeing were 2 deer about 5 ft outside the trailer window.
The State Park also had a beautiful lodge that was built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Bru, Cohen, and Clare had dinner there while Aimee and Caleb stayed at the trailer with sore throats.  Fortunately they were feeling well enough to go to McDonald Observatory that night.  We had come across the observatory in a number of our readings and heard the "star party" was not to be missed.  It is part of the University of Texas and is located way up on the top of the Davis Mountain range.  We toured through the exhibits inside first then when it was completely dark they invited everyone outside.  They gave a short presentation on things we could see in the night sky without the telescopes using the coolest laser pointer.  Next we were able to view stars, the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn through different huge telescopes.  It was a bit overcast that night but were still able to see the craters on the moon, the moons around Jupiter, and Saturn's rings.  It was such a cool experience and worth everyone being a little grumpy the next day!   
Aimee had a wonderful Mothers Day waking up to breakfast in bed, some great homemade cards and pictures, and a beautiful bracelet she had seen in Galveston.  Everyone took good care of her all day!  Before we left we rode our bikes to Indian Lodge and sat and relaxed in the porch swings and looked around the lodge. Then we took a scenic drive up the mountains and stopped at the lookout at the top.  The view was absolutely beautiful and we sometimes just can't believe where this trip has taken us and some of the astounding things we've seen. 

Being Mother's Day, Aimee made the executive decision that she was going to have Bruce be the co-pilot and was going to drive to Balmorhea that day.  As she had never done any highway driving pulling the trailer Bruce had been a little nervous to let go of the reins.  We sadly have to say there was a fatality that day.  Only 10 minutes into the drive a sweet, little squirrel dared to cross the road in front of her and sadly did not make it to the other side.  Everyone else survived the drive in one piece, although Bruce's blood pressure was through the roof!
We arrived at Balmorhea State Park in the blazing heat of the day.  It is another very small West Texan town but the State Park has the worlds largest spring fed pool.  The pool has 22 million gallons of crystal clear spring water flow through it each day and is 25 ft deep.  It has a capacity of 3.5 million gallons, has 2 diving boards, and tons of minnows and black catfish swimming in it.  We had a lot of fun cooling off in the water and Bruce went off the high diving board quite a few times.  The boys used their snorkel gear and enjoyed watching the fish but hopped out pretty fast when they saw a snake.    

 The Park Ranger who lives at the residence at the State Park had a son a little younger than Cohen so we ended up spending some time with him and his family.  He and his wife were both from El Paso so it was interesting to hear what it was like growing up and living in this part of the world.  They had a daughter just a little over a year but Clare didn't play much as she developed a fever that afternoon that lasted our whole time in Balmorhea.  

We went into Balmorhea, population of about 500, to do laundry the next day at the town's only laundromat.  We've been fortunate thus far that wherever we've stayed there has been laundry facilities until the last 2 State Parks.  After seeing this laundromat we were really glad of this.  At the campground we went for a bike ride and went to the cienaga (unusual desert wetland) viewing window where you could see the water from the San Solomon Springs going into the pool.  We saw a turtle pass by the window but it was pretty hard to see through.  We knew the pool was going to be closing for a week the next day for its yearly cleaning and it was pretty cool to see the pool almost empty.  It never completely empties because they can't stop the stream from flowing into the pool. They use canals to direct the draining water and the local farmers must be glad to have the overflow water in this extremely dry climate.   At dusk, after the Park Rangers suggestion, we watched about 20 bats fly out from the roof of our sun shelter.  It was amazing to think they were there the whole time without us even knowing.  Before they came out you could hear an almost chirping or clicking sound that they made.  Cohen and Clare missed them as they were already asleep (catching up!) but Caleb thought it was pretty amazing.  Cohen and Clare will hopefully see some bats when we're in Carlsbad, New Mexico.  We watched the sunset and then Caleb headed to bed.  The stars were beautiful on this clear night and Bruce and I sat out and enjoyed the quiet in the middle of this Texan desert.
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Sandra on

I hope Clare is on the mend and is feeling better. Wonderful pictures!

Paige Cassidy on

poor Clare :(

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